Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Lapis lazuli


Lapis from Badakshan
carried by mule
guarded through Peshawar
spread as far as Cleopatra
Blue to contrast with her scarab stones
guarding the ancient throne of Egypt

Along the Silk Road
Alexander's elephants hauled its precious weight
Blue as the skies it touched
in steady daylight moving West

Ground to powder
gleaming blue it glows along the ceiling
of the Sistine Chapel and
across the world where paintings
by Michelangelo and da Vinci
are prized for beauty and inventiveness

The richest seam
Sapphures to prospectors of ancient Rome
Six thousand years of labour
spreading wealth about emerging Empires
drawing envy from declining states

In winter lying silent
above the ice-line
Deep below the snow
in high Afghanistan
its single resting seam
waits for plundering

Chip by chip
and stone by stone its precious colour
taken in the spring and summer
through the Badlands and
the rifle fire of bandits
trickles on

No other stone
glowing ultra-marine
like sea above the coral reefs
or depths of blue descending down their seaward walls
no other stone can take the place
of lapis lazuli
copyright 1996 Charlotte Peters Rock
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